Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

City should explore capping water use

I relocated here from Aspen, Colo., my home for 45 years, where I served as mayor of the city during the 1970s and subsequently worked for a senator on both the Public Works and Interior committees, where we addressed the management of the Colorado River Basin. Before moving to Las Vegas, I was the international director of the Living Planet Campaign for the World Wide Fund for Nature.

As a New York Times article in Sunday’s Sun states, “Southern Nevada’s water-saving measures are in some ways most impressive of all.” While this is admirable and necessary, it begs the long solution to the issue.

If the Colorado River Basin is to continue to meet the needs of the Basin States, and if Las Vegas is to continue to have a sustainable water supply, a vision of supply and demand is called for. We cannot “conserve” our way into the future.

What this means is that county commissioners, the business community and the Southern Nevada Water Authority must address the cold, hard fact that Las Vegas has reached its environmental carrying capacity as it relates to water.

To date we have not instituted any growth management planning at the county level; in fact, we have encouraged the Bureau of Land Management to continue to auction dry, desert land to developers to put up ever more dense, unsustainable communities, stressing not only our water resources, but our full spectrum of public services.

In Aspen, we faced the same challenge back in the 1970s and we took proactive steps. To overcome the deteriorating air quality caused by fireplace emissions, we developed a “cap and trade” tool whereby a developer/resident wishing to put in a fireplace must buy the fireplace rights of the one who had a fireplace and removed it.

Here in Las Vegas we could easily do the same with swimming pools. No new pool permits without purchasing a “pool right” from an existing pool owner whose pool was filled in — not unlike the turf removal program already in place.

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